He's an icon in Southern Baptist circles throughout the South, though you'd have a tough time getting him to admit it. Frank Cox has served as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and in many other capacities throughout Southern Baptist life.
On Sunday, Cox will celebrate his 25-year anniversary as pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church.
Several guests and speakers will celebrate along with Cox and the 2,500-plus member church, but Cox is being kept in the dark about who they are, said Buddi Gammage, Cox's assistant. "We want him to be surprised," Gammage said.
Cox's father pastored several churches, including First Baptist of Doraville, but that's not the reason Cox chose that following.
"When I was a teenager, my dad pastored great churches and some challenging ones," Cox said. "My goal was to be an attorney or a medical doctor. I wanted to be faithful and active in the church, but I thought I could become a successful businessman and help a church that way."
But when he was a freshman in high school, things took a turn.
"I began going to youth evangelism conferences," he said. "God began calling me to preach. I made the decision to do that between my junior and senior years in high school, and I've never looked back."
Until 1995, Cox pastored Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Duluth. An established church since 1893, the small church grew to the point that the congregation had to find a new home. In '95, the church moved to Old Peachtree Road in Lawrenceville and changed the name to North Metro First Baptist Church. The growth continued.
"We're still in a relocation process," Cox said. "We're building a new auditorium that seats 2,500 people, and we should be in there by Easter of next year."
A valued pillar of the community, Cox chaplains the Collins Hill High School football team and coaches. His son Stephen played football there under the legendary coach Alan Fahring.
"I walked on to the field after a varsity game, introduced myself and told (Fahring) that we'd like to support the team in any way we could," Cox said.
"He invited me to stand on the sidelines. We won that game. At the next three games we sat in the stands, and Collins Hill lost all three games," Cox said with a laugh. "Coach Fahring asked me where I was during those games, and when I told him 'in the stands' he asked me to be on the sidelines from then on."
The church started providing meals for the football players before the games, and eventually Fahring asked Cox to be the team's chaplain. That was about eight years ago.
"There are times when you get a chance to impact kids' lives," Cox said. When Fahring left coaching because of an illness, his coaching partner of 20-plus years, coach Larry Sherrill, asked Cox to continue to serve as the team's chaplain, ministering to the coaches as well as the players.
The 25th anniversary celebration honoring Cox will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday evening at the Gwinnett Civic Center.